Pregnancy is a time to be vigilant and offer extra care and keep the mother happy and stress-free. This is most important for all that is consumed as it affects both the mother and the baby. It is a known fact that staying away from alcohol, cold cuts, processed foods, and raw fish is not recommended. Caffeine is yet another thing that is not advisable however, drinking hot chocolate could be a good option. Chocolates during pregnancy are considered to increase the happy quotient. Yet another question that comes to one’s mind can be “Is white chocolate good during pregnancy” or “chocolate milk during pregnancy is good”
Let us try and answer these questions and a few topics that are interlinked with it.
Is It Safe To Eat Chocolate During Pregnancy?
Caving for unhealthy foods like ice-creams, pizzas, and burgers is not recommended but chocolate does not fall under this category and is safe for consumption. It is totally safe for a pregnant lady to consume chocolate during pregnancy as it has many benefits. Having dark chocolate during pregnancy in the first trimester helps in improving placental functions. But it is important to check that it should not be taken in excess as that can boost caffeine levels adversely affecting the baby.
Studies suggest keeping the caffeine intake to less than 200 mg a day. Chocolate contains caffeine which is not good for the functioning of the body during pregnancy. It can even affect the neurotransmitters, resulting in gestational diabetes and lead to pregnancy complications due to excessive weight gain. So, having it in moderation is the key.
You can even eat chocolate cake during pregnancy as long as it is made with dark chocolates. Dark chocolates and unsweetened cocoa contain antioxidants, which can prove to be beneficial for your health during pregnancy. So, eating a piece or two of dark chocolate cake can be beneficial besides satisfying your craving. However, make sure that the cake you buy or make has no alcohol content in it. If possible, eat homemade cakes or cakes from a reputed home baker.
Does Chocolate Craving Indicate The Baby’s Gender?
The gender of the baby is not linked to pregnancy cravings. There is no scientific evidence to support this claim. Though chocolate craving is one of the top 10 food cravings when pregnant with a girl. Pregnant women who crave cocoa are thought to be carrying a baby girl1.
Chocolate aversion during pregnancy is very rare. Eating dark chocolate during pregnancy helps in regulating blood pressure, and in preventing cardiac ailments2. These points, if kept in mind, help in choosing the right chocolates during pregnancy. Also, chocolates release happy hormones that help in destressing.
Related Reading: 8 Ways To Cope With Extreme Food Aversion During Pregnancy
Benefits Of Eating Chocolates During Pregnancy
Having cravings for chocolate during pregnancy is experienced by many women and it is not junk food. It is surprising to know that consuming chocolates can help in relieving stress and releases the happiness hormone as well. If taken in moderation, the flavonoids present in cocoa are good for pregnant women. Cocoa is a major component of chocolate. Also, the darker the chocolate, the more flavonoids it has.
Let us study the benefits that the pregnant woman derives from its consumption.
1. Relief from pre-eclampsia
Pre-eclampsia is a condition in which the pregnant woman experiences high blood pressure and protein levels. This can lead to premature labor, blood clotting, liver damage, convulsions, etc. Having chocolates has a good effect on this condition especially in the third trimester as the theobromine present in chocolates helps in relieving these symptoms. Studies suggest having dark chocolate five servings in a week can help in preventing preeclampsia by almost 70%.
2. Source of antioxidants
Chocolates have flavonoids which are great antioxidants and help in boosting immunity level during pregnancy3. Pregnancy is a time when the immunity of a woman is compromised to an extent. Researchers have found that an ingredient in chocolate may relieve constant coughing. Therefore, take a cup of hot chocolate when those bouts of cough bother you during pregnancy.
3. Cardiovascular benefits
The antioxidants present in chocolates are good for the heart and help prevent heart disease in the future as well. A healthy heart and blood vessels are very important during pregnancy because the job of the heart and blood vessels doubles during pregnancy. This is because the blood volume increases around 50% during pregnancy. A small amount of dark chocolate daily has been shown to lower blood pressure in the short term4. Also, flavonoids in chocolate strengthen the arteries facilitating blood flow.
4. Stress reliever
Consuming dark chocolates can increase the endorphin and serotonin levels in the brain, which enhance mood. Flavanols in chocolate help to combat fatigue and stress levels. Research suggests having 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate daily for two weeks can reduce cortisol hormone levels which is also the stress hormone.
Related Reading: Early Pregnancy Anxiety – 5 Causes And 6 Tips To Cope
5. Happier babies
As per studies women who consume more dark chocolate during pregnancy give birth to happier and livelier babies. Consumption of chocolate also protects babies from maternal stress. We discuss this in-depth further down.
6. Balances cholesterol levels
The flavonoids present in dark chocolate help in controlling cholesterol levels during pregnancy. In addition, higher concentrations of polyphenols in chocolates help to enhance the elasticity of blood vessels, which in turn facilitates a better blood flow. It even has low sugars and fats as well5.
7. Excellent nutrient content
Chocolate comprises many nutrients like magnesium and iron that help to improve the hemoglobin count and boost the metabolism of fatty acids. Studies suggest that 100g of dark chocolate offers 67% of the recommended iron and 58% magnesium daily intake. Magnesium helps to metabolize fatty acids. Additionally, it contains zinc and selenium, which are important minerals during pregnancy.
Related Reading: 21 Pregnancy Superfoods To Include In Your Pregnancy Diet
8. Presence of resveratrol
Dark chocolate and cocoa contain the health-promoting compound resveratrol. Resveratrol present in chocolates helps to protect the nervous system as well as the brain and is good for the baby’s development6.
How Much Chocolate Can A Pregnant Woman Eat A Day?
It is safe for a pregnant woman to eat chocolate as studies show many benefits of consuming chocolates. Studies suggest consuming 30 g of chocolate daily during pregnancy for healthy fetal growth and development.
Does Eating Chocolate While Pregnant Make Your Baby Happy?
As per studies, women who consumed chocolate during pregnancy showed having happier and lively babies. Stress is common during pregnancy; consuming chocolate helps to lower stress levels. Reports suggest having dark chocolates during pregnancy gives birth to happier and lively babies.
The happiness score is more due to the consumption of chocolates as they contain components that improve mood and others that alter brain function. One of these happiness-making components is tryptophan, which is an amino acid found in chocolate that helps the brain make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy and satisfied7.
Phenylethyl alanine and theobromine are also components of chocolate that may boost happiness. Phenylethyl alanine is a naturally-acting antidepressant. As a result of this component, one experiences many of the same emotions as falling in love, such as increased heart rate, alertness, and motivation. Theobromine, on the other hand, simulates a high, like that of marijuana, although at a much lower level, thereby producing a relaxing and stress relief effect8.
Related Reading: 9 Early Warning Signs Of Postpartum Depression To Watch Out For
Drinking Hot Chocolate During Pregnancy
Consuming hot chocolate is safe during pregnancy since it has low caffeine content, it is not more than 25 mg for each serving. Pregnant women are permitted to have 200 mg of caffeine which makes moderate consumption of chocolate very safe.
Few benefits and side effects of having dark chocolates during pregnancy are:
During pregnancy consuming more than 200 mg daily can double the risk of miscarriage than the ones who do not take caffeine. All brands have different caffeine levels in the hot chocolate but the homemade one which is made with milk has only 5mg9.
If hot chocolate is prepared with milk, a good calcium dosage can be obtained which is good for the healthy growth and development of the baby’s bones, heart development, muscle, nerve, and even blood clotting. If the calcium intake is not proper it can lead to osteoporosis10.
Related Reading: Top 10 Calcium Rich Foods For Pregnancy
It can be a benefit and concern at the same time. Additional calories are needed to support the growing belly. Having hot chocolate in moderation is a good way to consume calories. A cup of hot chocolate has 200 calories which are good for healthy growth and development11. However, overdoing it results in excessive calorie intake which is not advisable during pregnancy.
Chocolates, more specifically dark chocolates, are a great source of antioxidants that are good for the mother and the fetus. Antioxidants present help in fighting environmental exposure that can lead to the development of cancer and heart ailments.
Why Is Too Much Chocolate Not Safe During Pregnancy?
Consuming chocolates during pregnancy is no doubt beneficial for the mother and the baby yet one cannot overlook the caloric input that comes with it. Overeating chocolate can also have adverse effects and some of them are:
It is important to keep control of caffeine intake. It is recommended to have not more than 200 mg daily as it can result in miscarriage. Chocolate comprises caffeine which when mixed with tea, coffee, or other beverages can lead to exceeding the recommended intake as 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate has about 31 mg of caffeine. While the same amount of milk chocolate has 10 mg of caffeine in it12. Intake of caffeine also boosts heartburn which happens due to physical as well as hormonal changes.
2. Fat and calories
Excessive consumption of chocolate can lead to weight gain due to increased calorie intake and fats. Additional weight gain can even lead to varicose veins, hypertension, gestational diabetes, and a high risk of caesarean delivery. There are 150 calories and 9 g fat content in one ounce of dark chocolate. Likewise, milk chocolate comprises 8.5 g of fat and 150 calories13.
Additional sugar from chocolate can lead to threats of gestational diabetes, weight gain, and dental issues. There are 18g of sugar in 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate while the same amount of milk chocolate has 23g of sugar. It is best to consult a doctor and ask for the recommended amount of sugar as well as the chocolate quantity that should be consumed.
Thus, making wise choices for chocolates consumed during pregnancy taken in moderation help to satiate the cravings and even help to enjoy the benefits that one gets from its consumption. Consumption of excess dark chocolate or any other sweet can lessen the urge for healthy food options. During pregnancy, one should have a balanced diet consisting of lean protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and also dark chocolates to get the maximum benefit for the mother and the baby.
Under all circumstances, the craving for chocolates arises due to a deficiency of magnesium levels, antioxidants, and vitamins. Chocolates have many benefits if consumed in moderation.
Medical science does not have a remedy that can be followed for the prevention of miscarriage. But studies suggest women having chocolate regularly have 20 % fewer chances of suffering a miscarriage.
Having a piece of chocolate helps to keep the extra weight at bay as well.